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Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just for You

We sifted through the papers to find the best opinion reads, so you won't have to.

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P Chidambaram writes: Can We Elect Freedom and Development?

Senior Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in his column for The Indian Express, reflects on how the success of the regional parties in India has worsened the distance between the North and South.

"The regional parties in the southern states are deeply suspicious of the BJP. More than the Congress, it is the regional parties that paint the BJP as a party of Hindi, Hindu and Hindutva. Pride in the regional language, acceptance of all religious groups, and the legacy of social reformers have marked a distinct path for the people of the southern states. Their suspicions are fuelled by the perceived discrimination in devolution of revenues, dominance of Hindi over the regional languages, and the imposition of one set of beliefs (food, dress, culture, etc.)."
P Chidambaram, The Indian Express

Chidambaram believes that with the 'One Nation, One Election' idea, federalism and parliamentary democracy "will be further eroded" and the Indian government will be closer to a Presidential system with "all powers concentrated in one person."

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Electoral Bonds Case Casts SBI in a bad light

In his weekly column for Hindustan Times, senior journalist and author Karan Thapar critiques the State Bank of India for "wilfully complicating a simple task" ordered by the Supreme Court, which was to provide electoral bonds data to the Election Commission of India.

"The bank I knew would never have behaved the way SBI did last week. Its staff would have shrivelled at the rebuke from the Supreme Court... The worst is the suspicion that SBI deliberately misconstrued what was required of it, wilfully complicating a simple task ordered by the Supreme Court to, thus, create an excuse for not performing it. You don’t expect that of an honourable bank. It’s disillusioning when it happens to be the one you have a long association with."
Karan Thapar, Hindustan Times

Recalling his memories with SBI, Thapar says, "For my bank to have been reduced to this — and it’s still one of my banks – is upsetting. Don’t ask me why I feel that way. Perhaps it’s a consequence of a relationship that stretches over half a century."

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Of Elections and Bonds

In her weekly column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh discusses how the electoral bonds scheme that "turned ‘black’ money snowy white" as soon as it became a political donation was ‘not perfect’ as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman admitted at the India Today conclave last week.

"...But she was right when she reminded the audience that the system that existed before was much worse. It might have been more accurate to say that it did nothing to improve corrupt practices from times of yore...This attempt to conceal this ugly truth rather than an honest attempt to bring transparency into the political system and this is why the Supreme Court has expressed its disapproval so strongly"
Tavleen Singh, The Indian Express

While Singh agreed that the Supreme Court’s decision on electoral bonds was a "vital first step towards change," the real change will only happen when there is a "total cleansing of our political culture," she believed.

"If he (PM Narendra Modi) becomes prime minister for the third term, we must hope that he will deliver on this promise because there is no question that things need to change if India is to ever become a developed country," concludes Tavleen Singh

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Between Continuity and Loose Change?

"The summer of judgement is almost upon us, and it's with a suprising sense of novelty that we meet it... we are officially in election season," writes Santwana Bhattacharya, Editor of The New Indian Express.

In her piece, Bhattacharya discusses how the 18th Lok Sabha election will be the biggest exercise ever in world history to elicit a popular mandate.

While the BJP’s "language of certitude is suddenly a little less serene," the Congress is showing some "some signs of being revivified, even if at the head of a rickety alliance," she writes.

"A lot of the fractious seat-sharing talks within the INDIA coalition seemed marked by a new wariness of the Congress. But in the end, whatever the Congress score, it would have evolved internally—a long-overdue correction of its post-Mandal ideological drought. The BJP’s internal processes are, for the moment, adjourned. That’s for a future that will start on June 4."
Santwana Bhattacharya, The New Indian Express
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Time To Resolve Poll Funding Issue Once For All

Foreign policy analyst Seshadri Chari, in his piece for the Deccan Herald, argues that that the electoral bonds scheme might have been a more "realistic attempt" to provide funds to registered political parties that have secured at least 1% of the votes polled in a recent election.

Calling the SC's decision on electoral bonds as "unfortunate," the analyst writes:

"While the Supreme Court is not expected to provide an alternative system, it could have nudged all stake-holders toward devising a fool-proof method of funding elections in the meantime. Now, with no good alternative system of political funding, parties and corporates will probably go back to the old system of cash donations."
Seshadri Chari, Deccan Herald
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Who Will Corner the Matua Vote? Seat for Nirmala a Poser for BJP Columnists

In her piece for Deccan Chronicle, senior journalist Anita Katyal talks about how despite being political adversaries, PM Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have something in common.

"Both are averse to sharing the stage with anyone else, making sure they alone remain in the spotlight. Take the case of Mamata Banerjee. More than a week after she kickstarted the Lok Sabha poll campaign with an impressive public rally at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Grounds, everyone is still talking about her ramp walk at the venue when she strode in solo before going on to deliver her speech..."
Anita Katyal, Deccan Chronicle

Katyal then moves on to talk about how the Modi government’s decision to notify the Citizenship (Amendment) Act rules ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha election was taken with the "primary purpose" of further consolidating the support of West Bengal’s Matua community which has been pushing for the implementation of this law.

Lastly, she writes on how the BJP leadership is struggling to find a winnable seat for Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

"Karnataka BJP leaders say the state unit had told the party bosses in Delhi that Sitharaman’s candidature from the state may not be received well and could even damage the party’s prospects on other seats. They maintained that Sitharaman’s outsider tag could prove to be a big negative as both the BJP and Congress have invoked Kannada pride in recent poll campaigns."
Anita Katyal, Deccan Chronicle
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Why Mayawati Is The Patron Mother of Bahujan Politics

Suraj Yengde, author of 'Caste Matters' writes in The Indian Express on how not many have understood that Mayawati or the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), have been creating difficulties in deciphering the telltale signs of Indian politics.

"India should be grateful to have a charismatic leader like her, despite the casteist regime in media, politics, business and other sectors. BSP has created an ideal, democratic experience in a land that enquires about caste before establishing a relationship."

Mayawati’s drawback is her inaccessibility to the public and her uncharismatic deputies, Yengde writes.

He further goes on to explain that despite the colour of the party changing, from being a missionary movement to charges of nepotism, Mayawati remains a thick wall for Indian democracy.

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When Food Is Turned Into A Weapon Of War

In his piece for Hindustan Times, columnist Shah Alam Khan talks about how the blockade of humanitarian aid by Israel has precipitated a serious crisis of food in Gaza leading to pervasive starvation and death, particularly among children.

"The crisis of food shortage is so intense that according to a report from the Palestinian health ministry, one in six children in north Gaza is showing signs of severe malnourishment... The capital power of the apartheid Israeli aggression is a blow not just to the people of Gaza, but to the very values of liberty, fraternity and justice."
Shah Alam Khan, Hindustan Times
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Kate, Wish You Had Read Hamsavali's Story, Mate

With Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, not having made a public appearance in a couple of months, everyone on social media is losing their mind, coming up with conspiracy theories as to where she might be, writes Anusha S Rao, in a piece for Deccan Herald.

Rao goes on to compare this incident with the story of Hamsavali, a princess from Kathasaritsagara, and says:

"And if only Kensington Palace had not put out an altered photo, the gossip about Kate Middleton would have died down by itself. But who will tell the British royals to carefully read the literature of the countries they once colonised?"
Anusha S Rao, Deccan Herald
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